Muke has presented quite a good writeup detailing the traditional view on what Atlantis was and what kind of deal it had. More recently, however, people like Graham Hancock have been publicizing a fairly interesting theory concerning it. Hancock's discussion of Atlantis has spanned several long, fairly readable, and often bestselling books, and hence I can not summarize everything he has said, but what follows is a brief, innacurate nutshell.

Essentially, Hancock toured the globe, listened to the myths of natives, and examined their artifacts and monoliths.

He noticed that a startling number of the natives' myths deal with the idea of some kind of civilizer emerging in a time of chaos and giving science, art, and civilization to the natives who were before the civilizer's arrival savages. To the Aztecs, the civilizer was Quetzalcoatl. To the Egyptians, Osiris. Others in the Americas called him Kulkulcan. The civilizer has had many names and appeared in the myths of many cultures. Furthermore, peoples all over the Earth have stories dealing with some kind of cataclysmic flood that wiped almost everything out: we, of course, have the story of Noah, the Sumerians had Utnapishtim, and other cultures had their own very similar flood and remnant motif. Hancock also listened to many of their other stories, and came ot the conclusion that several of them were metaphorical depictions of both the heavens, aspects of science, and mathematics. Hancock postulated that the similarity in myths between such distant peoples and the information about the stars and sciences in their myths was because some ultra advanced race encoded that information into stories that could be told and spread by word of mouth. Furthermore, the stories are a commemoration of their memory and a warning to future generations. The stories were encoded in myth so that they could be easily passed down by word of mouth through the generations until the tales could reach a race advanced enough to truly comprehend what was up.

Hancock also found evidence for his theory in the great monuments that stand all over the Earth. Looking at the similarity between the pyramids of Egypt and Mexico and the smiliarity between the megaliths that are all over the Earth, Hancock decided that they, too, were built by an ancient race. Claiming that such monuments aligned at one point with certain constellations, he has determined when they were built by doing a regression on the motion of the stars to see when the monuments would have been aligned with their counterparts in the heavens: for example, his computer simulations of the stars' movements show that in BC 10500, the Sphinx was aligned with Leo the Lion, thus it was therefore built around that time. Furthermore, the geologist Robert Schoch has dated the sphinx to around BC 8500 or earlier by looking at the sphinx, deciding that the weathering done to it was done by water, and then determining that the last time it rained in sufficient quantities in Egypt to weather the sphinx in that manner was around BC 8500. This is an extremely unorthodox date; the generally accepted number by Egyptologists is BC 2500, however they really aren't very sure. Hancock has used similar regressions on other monuments to support his thesis of an ancient race.

So where, then, was this race, what happened to them, and what was up with them? A proponent of poleshift, Hancock has come to the conclusion that Antarctica used to lie farther north in fairly recent times, and therefore that it used to be habitable. He believes that this ancient, advanced race used to live there before the end of the last ice age. When the ice age started ending in--guess what?--BC 10500, and the world began to go through some fairly tumultuous times as glaciers pulled back and melted, and, according to Hancock and Charles Hapgood, Antarctica began to fall farther south, this civilization realized that their end was nigh. Seeking to preserve what they could of their race and warn future peoples that such sudden and tumultuous events can happen, they sent out small bands of missionaries whose purpose was to jump start a new civilizations by civilizing the half-savage peoples of the Americas, Africa, Europe, and so on. They were what would one day be known as Kulkulcan and Osiris. The missionaries encoded scientific information as well as their own story of destruction into myths, which they told to the people they were civilizing, who, in turn, told to future generations. To further demonstrate to future generations that they existed, they also supposedly built things like the pyramids, the sphinx, and so on as great monuments that would survive the flood and indicate when and who they were by pointing at the stars.

Hancock's theory essentially takes many very odd coincidences, ties them together, and offers a solution with very little actual evidence. It is very interesting, to be sure, but even he admits that much of it is based on intuition. There are also several obvious flaws in it. For one thing, the need for poleshift has been entirely eliminated by plate tectonics. For another, many of the coincidences can be explained in a more mundane manner: much of Hancock's thesis is based on the belief that all of these similar figures and similar myths share genetic roots to one another, but many of these similarities (some of which are ridiculously superficial) can be explained by plain and simple parallel development, which Hancock basically ignores. I think the most ridiculous case of this was probably the bit in his book Fingerprints of the Gods where Hancock claims that the Americas and Eurasia must have had a common precursor (namely Atlantis) because the civilization of each use the symbol of the cross in their art. I, at least, find this just plain silly: there are certain symbols, certain ideas, certain motifs that are ingrained on the human brain and common to so many cultures not due to some kind of ancient super-race, but because men share a common tendency to explain certain events in certain ways when given similar stimuli and because men have a natural affinity for certain ideas and symbols.

I left quite a bit out in my summary; among other things, I didn't include the bit about the Jesus-Pisces connection, the star Sirius, the Dogons, the Olmecs, and some of Hancock's other claims and pieces of evidence. This, however, is the bare bones.

A final note: when did these Atlanteans from Antarctica predict that this current age would experience a cataclysm similar to their own and would, therefore, end, as evidenced by the calendrical system they gave the Mayans? December 23, 2012. Bummer: one day before Christmas.